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A question in regard to emergency services will be on the Saxman and South Tongass precincts' election ballot next week.
Voters will be asked whether a Saxman-South Tongass Fire and EMS Service area should be established.
The annual cost for the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department to provide services to Saxman is about $516,000. Financing would be through a mill levy and/or user fee.
This is to rectify a situation in which Saxman is surrounded by the South Tongass Service Area, but isn't part of it and doesn't pay service-area property taxes. Saxman and South Tongass operated from a 1991 agreement for fire protection, but with no recollection of when Saxman last paid for the service. Saxman has been paying $10,000 annually for emergency medical services.
A new fire and EMS service area, which includes Saxman, would be formed if the ballot measure is OK'd by Saxman and South Tongass Service Area voters. The new area would be in place Jan. 1, 2014. All property owners would pay taxes of $220 per $100,000 in assessed property value.
If the measure fails in both Saxman and the South Tongass Service Area, then Saxman might be without fire protection. The existing service area would be disinclined to provide fire services at no charge. EMS services wouldn't be affected.
The ballot measure presented to South Tongass precinct voters will include changing the name of the South Tongass Service Area to the South Tongass Water Service Area. Water services cost about $302,000 annually; South Tongass property owners would continue to pay the current water fee.
The changes proposed in this ballot measure basically ensure that all users of fire services are paying for protection. It's the way it should be.
It's only fair.